Written by: Hannah Tran | April 28th, 2022
Anaïs in Love (Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet, 2021) 2½ out of 4 stars.
French romance Anaïs in Love opens with a literal burst of energy as the titular character races through city streets to make it to a meeting with her landlord for which she, characteristically, is late. The story that unfolds is less a traditional narrative than a series of exploits of an eccentric but vibrant woman who adapts to life as it comes at her. However, while Anaïs is often captivating, she is frustratingly unsubstantial and her energy is not always enough to hide that fact or move her narrative forward. Overlooking this, however, director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet still crafts a visually stunning romance with a strong atmosphere. As Anaïs goes from lover to lover, ultimately falling for the romantic partner of a man with whom she has an affair, Bourgeois-Tacquet explores budding love and friendship with a genuine warmth and wonder.
The sincerity felt within the central relationship is brief but fervent. It deftly passes from romance to friendship to narcissistic indulgence. Lead actress Anaïs Demoustier (Old Fashioned) brings an alien quality to the character. Although it is difficult to like the cinematic Anaïs or imagine her outside the confines of a movie screen, her underscoring selfishness contrasts with her glorification of her new lover to create an interesting dynamic that enjoyably complicates the film. She sees her lover, Emilie, as an almost perfected version of herself. As Emilie, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (Summer of 85) wonderfully plays into these dynamics with a mixture of mature confidence and youthful curiosity.
Beyond the delights of their romance, the rest of Anaïs’ life struggles to find its footing. Her revolving relationships with her boyfriend, her parents, her landlord, and each of her lovers lack a sense of tension. Bourgeois-Tacquet peers into seemingly important moments within these relationships, whether it’s Anaïs explaining she’s getting an abortion or learning of her mother’s cancer. However, Anaïs’ carefree nature and the lack of any follow-up regarding these topics make these elements of her life feel pointless in the scope of the film.
Its Rohmer-esque trappings would perhaps hint at this lack of resolution being part of the style, but the conversations themselves are rarely interesting or perplexing enough to match the intrigue of its influences. While certainly not an unintelligent film, it is not a particularly challenging or innovative one. At its best, it plays out like a lesser work of the figures it wishes to emulate. At its worst, it feels like a parody. Tender at times and pretentious at others, Anaïs in Lovetakes its summer romance too literally. It has exciting bursts of romance and passion, but, ultimately, it’s more forgettable than it would like to think and far more generic.